Saturday, April 30, 2011


Here's the deal.

A couple of years ago, I was diagnosed with high blood pressure. My GP spun the Wheel of Fate a number of times, trying out various drugs on me. I think he's finally got me on pills that keep my BP in the "Well, I guess it's okay" range.

Never has my doc suggested any lifestyle changes. That's okay, because I'm hip enough to know how I should be living my life. Eat right and exercise. Yeah... no.

But the "eating right" part is something I may wish to tackle. I know I should be watching my salt, but I have not been. I was shocked when I did a nutritional analysis of my daily lunch. I eat a "healthy" meal of oatmeal, soy sauce, bacon bits, and cayenne. Trouble is, the sodium in my hugely liberal soy sauce addition would come to about 1800 mg. That's most of my daily recommended allowance right there.

This got me thinking about all the other casual ways I'm taking in salt each day. A package of Combos Pizzeria Pretzels? Would you believe 810 mg?

So, starting today, I'm going to pay attention to the sodium content of the foods I buy. Since soy sauce is such an essential ingredient in my lunch of wont, I would like to find a substitute. The "Low-Sodium" soy sauce is still very high in sodium. This dilemma has lead me to a consider a homemade substitute for soy sauce. My googling turned up one recipe that was repeated frequently. I'm not sure this is the sauce I want, but here it is:


  • 4 tablespoons beef bouillon
  • 4 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons dark molasses
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 pinch white pepper
  • 1 pinch garlic powder
  • 1 1/2 cups water
    1. In a saucepan over medium heat, stir together the beef bouillon, balsamic vinegar, molasses, ginger, white pepper, garlic powder and water. Boil gently until liquid is reduced to about 1 cup, about 15 minutes. 
    So, here are my problems with this recipe. Bouillon contains tons of salt. I was able to find no-sodium chicken bouillon at the store this afternoon, but all the beef varieties were off the scale with sodium.
    Powdered ginger may be great for cookies, but I think I'll need fresh ginger root or at least ginger paste for my own recipe.
    Molasses--I'm suspicious. Actually I'm suspicious of any kind of "sugar" in a savory recipe. It could be that molasses is a key ingredient. I bought a jar at the grocery this afternoon to cover that possibility.
    Garlic powder? No, I will use either fresh or prepared chopped garlic.
    I'm thinking that a good dose of umami will help distract my mind from its expectation of salt. With that in mind, I think I'd want to add a good dose of Vietnamese fish sauce. 
    In summary, it is my intention to perform experimental cookery with the goal of formulating a delicious, low-sodium alternative to soy sauce.
    Stay tuned! 

    Friday, April 29, 2011

    One Way To Make a Mint Julep

    The following recipe was provided by the Honorable Order of Kentucky Colonels

    "OK, for those holding Derby parties, here's a recipe.  There are several but this is our favorite:  Take two frosted silver goblets.  In the first fill with ice and add a teaspoon of sugar and a splash of water.  Then, gently crush a couple mint leaves and place in the ice.  In the second goblet pour about 3 fingers of a quality Kentucky Bourbon.  Now, pour out the mess in the first goblet and drink from the second.  By the way, Churchill Downs uses a bottled mix for the juleps served there on Derby Day.  You may be able to find the mix in your local beverage store."

    Thursday, April 28, 2011

    Mischievious Cats and Bad Dreams

    I called a family meeting the other night. Since all of the cats protested with silence and refused to participate, all of my motions were carried.

    The new rule is that if any of the cats (Gypsy) starts chewing on my CPAP equipment or otherwise intentionally disrupts my sleep at 4:00 AM or later, all cats will be locked out of the bedroom until my alarm clock goes off. The early morning hours are my prime REM time. If I'm deprived of dreams, I wake up feeling tired and numb of brain.

    The change has been successful in that I'm now getting my dream time in. But the dreams! Oy!

    This morning I had my recurring slow-burn nightmare that my ex-girlfriend was living with me and I was not able to get her to move out. There were a few new twists this time. My cell phone and my car were either lost or stolen. Ex-gf's father gave her $500,000 mad money (and I know she could spend that much in a month). I had to sit down to a restaurant dinner with ex-gf and some young guy (apologies to Wayne's World) who was trying to hit on her. Then the mafia arrived and broke all the windows with baseball bats. It was truly a sucky dream.

    Even a lousy dream is better than no dream at all, though. The rule will stay in place for now.

    Monday, April 18, 2011

    Making Grits in the Microwave

    Grits are a delicious source of starch, calories, salt, and fat (assuming you add salt and butter). They're awesome as a standalone cereal or as part of an eggs-and-meat breakfast. Here's how to prepare grits in a microwave oven.

    Step 1: Obtain Grits
    This is not quite as easy as it sounds. Go to your grocery's cereal aisle and locate the grits (near the oatmeal). If you see anything labeled "Instant Grits", don't touch it! It is evil and vile! You're looking for "Quick Grits". If your grocery store carries only "Instant Grits", move south.

    Step 2: Measure Ingredients
    Into a 2-cup Pyrex measuring cup pour 3/4 cup water. To that add 1/4 cup grits, 1 tablespoon butter, and a pinch of salt. Give it a few quick turns of a spoon.

    Step 3: Cook Grits
    Place the Pyrex cup in a microwave and heat at highest setting for 4 minutes. As soon as the timer sounds, remove the cup. The denser grits will be on the bottom. Stir well to achieve a uniform consistency. Warning: Failure to stir the grits at this point will result in a lumpy, gag-worthy mess.

    Step 4: Let Grits Cool
    When you take the grits out of the microwave, this delicious, buttery manna is boiling hot. The grits must be allowed to cool a couple of minutes. Of course, if you ladle them out onto a plate to be accompanied by sausage and eggs, they'll cool more quickly than if you leave them in the Pyrex cup for a stand-up, lean-your-butt-against-the-sink style breakfast.

    Step 5: Eat Grits
    Don't tarry excessively while eating your grits. Eat slowly enough to savor their deliciousness, but eat them while they're hot. Hot grits are ever so much more nummy than cold grits.

    So now you know the right way to make grits. Next week I'll teach you how to boil water. What-evar!

    Wednesday, April 13, 2011


    Do I Need An eBook Reader?

    Recently, I've been enjoying reading The Iliad on my Droid X using Kindle for Android. The eBook was free and I needed something to read during lunch breaks.

    The nicest aspect of reading a book this way is that I can highlight a word and pull up either its definition on or its Wikipedia article. The Iliad is not an easy read because the characters can go by several names. For example, Agamemnon is also referred to as The King of Men, Atreus' Son, and Atreides. To make matters worse, the last two names could also refer to Menelaus, Agamemnon's brother, who is also a Trojan War combatant. The instant, no-typing Wikipedia look-up is a great aid to comprehension.

    I've started to seriously consider buying a Kindle. I'd always thought that a dedicated eBook reader would be a waste of money. Why buy a Kindle when for a bit more money you could buy an iPad which could serve as an eBook reader and so much more? After some thought and research (Ha! Mostly reading Amazon's pro-Kindle propaganda!) I decided that there would be advantages to using an eBook reader:
    • Legibility
    • Battery Life
    • Convenience

    If you've ever tried to use your smartphone or a car navigation system in bright sunlight, you know how difficult it is to do. Since the Kindle uses "E Ink", the screen is (purportedly) legible in direct sunlight, just as a physical book would be.

    When I used reading glasses, at first I couldn't use them for computer work. The glasses made the view of the screen sharper, but that meant I could distinguish the pixels that made up the letters of text. The text on a Kindle screen is sharper and more easily legible than the text on a standard computer screen.

    Battery Life

    I plug my Droid in several times a day to recharge. I haven't used an iPad, but I'm pretty sure they need to be recharged daily when heavily used. The Kindle uses power to render a page of text on the screen but does not require power to maintain the image. For that reason, the Kindle would only need to be recharged every 2-4 weeks. That's a huge difference, especially if you wanted to read on a trip away from home.


    Since the Kindle is a dedicated eBook reader, it's more of an "appliance" than a computer. In many ways it's hard-wired to do what you want it to do.


    If you buy a Droid phone, you've got to drink the Google kool-aid. Likewise if you buy a Kindle, you've got to drink the Amazon kool-aid. I've been an Amazon customer for a long time, so I'm fairly comfortable with them as a company. Still, as I accumulate a collection of eBooks, I have to accept the fact that they'll be locked in a cabinet to which Amazon holds the key. Technology evolves and formats change. There will always be a chance that my eBooks could become unusable with little or no warning. Given the number of books that I've read once and then packed away in boxes in the basement, I think I'm willing to run the risk of losing most of my collection. There are some books that I reread or that I refer to occasionally. I'll either want physical copies of those books or find a way to back up the eBook in a non-proprietary format.

    The Decision

    I'm waiting to hear the opinion of a librarian/author friend before I place the order for a Kindle. I'm sure she's thought a lot about eBooks and she might point something out to me that I hadn't considered.

    Tuesday, April 5, 2011

    Lucy--My Senior Cat

    When I got home from work this afternoon, my neck was sending me all kinds of pain. I'd been looking forward to lying down on my bed with a heating pad. This I did, and the cats came. As usual, Lucy was the first. She's the oldest of my three at about 17 years. She's always been in excellent health.

    As the heating pad warmed up, Lucy walked up on my chest and I started to give her a gentle massage. After a few minutes, I got an uncomfortable feeling about her. She seemed to have a distant, dazed expression. Her head appeared to quiver a couple of times. I interpreted that as an indication that she was in pain.

    Like an idiot, I immediately worried that she was very ill. I was rubbing her tummy and crying and assuming the worst.

    Lucy changed position to lie down on my lap, but she didn't lower her head. I continued to worry until Ginny jumped up on the bed and started idly messing with Lucy. Lucy hissed and swatted at Ginny a couple of times. This was a good thing. Still, Lucy moved away from Ginny and indicated that she wished me to rub her tummy. I did that for a while and then I felt the slightly annoyed twitching of her tail. This indicates that's she's had enough petting. I continued to rub her tummy though, hoping she would bite my hand. She did--praise be.

    At one point, when I was fearing the worst, I thought, "L-rd, take me... not her." But my cats depend on me. I have to feed them and take care of them. So, it's like this big, fricking mess about the order of death. I wish I knew the answer.

    Monday, April 4, 2011

    Navy Beans and Cornbread

    This is pure comfort food, yet reasonably nutritious.

    2 country-style pork ribs
    2 lbs. Navy Beans
    1 lb. carrots
    4 stalks of celery
    1 medium-to-large onion
    1 t. garlic powder
    1 T. cumin powder
    Salt and pepper to taste

    2 c. corn meal
    1 c. flour
    2 T. baking powder
    1 t. baking soda
    2 c. buttermilk
    1 c. milk
    2 eggs
    1/2 c. vegetable oil

    To prepare the beans:

    The night before you plan to cook, place the dry beans in an 8-quart pot and cover with water so there is 2 inches of water above the beans. Let sit overnight.

    On the day of cooking, simmer the pork ribs in water with salt and pepper added. When done, remove the ribs and reserve the stock.

    Drain off the water in which the beans were soaking and replace with 12 cups of liquid: the pork stock plus additional water. Peel and dice carrots, chop celery and onion. Cut up the cooked pork. Add all to the pot with beans. Add spices. Cook for approximately 3 hours until beans are tender.

    To prepare the cornbread:

    Preheat oven to 425F. In a large mixing bowl, combine corn meal, flour, baking powder, and baking soda. Mix well with a fork. Add buttermilk, milk, eggs, and oil. Stir briskly until batter is well-mixed. Spray a lasagna dish with PAM or other oil. Pour the batter into the pan and bake for 40 minutes.


    Place a good-sized square of cornbread in a deep dish and smother with beans. Squirt ketchup liberally on top. Eat and enjoy.